creative nonfiction book writing

Self-Help Writing Prompts

Fiction writers have a whole host of writing prompt blogs and crazy Reddit posts, but people writing their first self-help book can find few resources to be a catalyst for their stories.

Rather than simple imagination, for the self-development writer, it’s more memories that we want to access… or finding others’ quotes and stories to back up what we’re saying. 

Examples of Writing Prompts

Look at some of my writing ideas from past books:

An idea about happiness and our outlook came one day when I observed the primary school kids leaving school, running, skipping, gleeful to be free… when my daughter talks about learning music, her face lights up. Why don’t adults run, skip and smile when they come out of their workplace? (from Create Your New Life of Abundance)

Does something irk you?  In How to Start a Freelance Business, I talk about the three skill-sets you need to be a freelancer. This came from my annoyance that most freelance business bloggers only regard the first skill-set (your specialisation) as important. Whereas, interpersonal skills and business skills are equally crucial, so I elaborated on these points.

I was writing about why we get often fooled in our first investments and it triggered a memory of when I played the ASX sharemarket game, which was a good way to lose fake money and learn! It certainly brought me down a peg or two. (Idea for Creative Ways with Money).

What experience did you once have that could give others a real life lesson?

What famous quotes or proven concepts can I find on this very specific idea?

How do you get better at jogging memories?

First, mull on one topic …. Start writing every observation or memory over the course of ONE DAY that offers insight on that topic. It’s a great way of getting all your memories on a topic out in the open. Then cull those weak or off-track ideas and teach with the best ones.

If you think in terms of teaching a lesson with a story, then it can be easier to get started. I’ve just been reading ‘The Resilience Project’ by an Australian teacher of the same program. It contains many real stories of people he met who stayed on in the author’s mind – influencing thousands of people over the next few years.

This style is effective as it’s letting people know that grown men have cried from these concepts or stories… Rather than just relating that ‘you should be grateful’ or ‘three ways to be mindful’, these raw stories make you feel… and when you feel, you remember.

Reading the industry experts’ work

Another way to initiate a writing prompt is reading your favourites among the genre of your book. If you pick out a passage that spoke to you, then that’s a prompt for creating a new insight for your own work.

Don’t copy though! Have faith that you can bring something entirely new to the conversation, as you are the only one with your set of experiences and perspective. It’s not about wallowing either; look at what other experts are saying, what the general public is saying about the topic, and write for those affected in a voice that they can relate to.


Get the support you need to write or structure a self-help book… see Jennifer’s Book Development program or Editing Services.

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